Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Huff Post Blog on India's Public Diplomacy

In an interesting post in The Huffington Post, Philip Seib, Professor of journalism and public diplomacy and director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California,  remarked that India lacks a comprehensive Public Diplomacy strategy. Philip was also a participant at the "Public Diplomacy in Information Age" conference in New Delhi last week. Philip says about India,
"In many respects, this exotic, chaotic country remains geopolitically undefined. It possesses nuclear weapons and aspires to a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It has a population of well over a billion, and its work force is steadily becoming better educated. It has a hostile neighbor - Pakistan - to the north, and a powerful competitor - China - to the east. More and more, India is a significant player in world affairs, and yet it lacks a consistent profile that it can present to the rest of the world."
What is implied is that India is yet to come up with a compelling and coherent narrative that is consistent across all its communications to global audiences. He also says,
"A visitor to India is certain to be impressed by the energy and determination of people here. Channeled through education and economic development, these qualities are gradually transforming the country and, coupled with the great size of the population, place India at the threshold of international leadership."
I could not agree with Philip more. In fact, I had written on my blog last year about the lack of a coherent strategy. Read these: 

                       "A Public Diplomacy Strategy for India"

                        "Towards a broader understanding of India"

However, these are early days for India's policy establishment and as the conference showed last week there is a commitment to become strategic.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Conference: Public Diplomacy in the Information Age

"Public Diplomacy in the Information Age" was a very successful conference. Congratulations to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for pulling this off - a first of its kind international conference on PD in India!  I hope this becomes an annual affair. It was also wonderful meeting some of my readers at the conference. I will share my learnings from this conference in subsequent posts and try to examine and ideate on the way forward. 

Some initial observations:
  1. Keeping with the spirit of New Public Diplomacy, it was heartening to see participation of representatives from different sectors - Policymakers, corporate world, diplomats, civil society organizations, students, foreign experts etc -  MEA got it right in understanding the importance of collaboration and partnerships. Nobody can go alone in today's world.
  2. Discussion topics, though not exhaustive, were chosen well that tried to capture the dominant themes in PD discourse today globally, including discussions on PD 2.0 and role of transnational corporations in shaping perceptions and 'generating influence.'
  3. The tone of the conference was basic. Most issues discussed were maybe 'PD 101' for some participants who have some background in PD or global communications. Nonetheless, there were no dearth of interesting insights for the student and practitioner of Public Diplomacy.
  4. While ignorance about PD among some participants can be understood given that it is 'new' in India, what I failed to understand was the lack of a nuanced understanding of PD and its role in statecraft among some academics and  ex-diplomats. We may not be doing it but aren't we supposed to know what's happening around the world in our respective areas of expertise? Thank god the conference happened!
Public Diplomacy & Power:

A question that came up repeatedly was the relationship between 'Public Diplomacy' and 'Power.' Some sections of participants found it difficult to accept that PD 'IS' about 'power.' Public diplomacy is an important tool in the arsenal of 'smart power' of a nation - to enhance influence & achieve national, strategic objectives, lessening reliance on 'disruptive' hard power, to the extent possible, in an increasingly interconnected world. Isn't it interesting that India's attempts at institutionalizing PD follows adoption of 'power projection' in strategic discourses on hard power doctrines? Public diplomacy was essential in winning the cold war and will be key in current struggle against transnational terrorism. 'Persuasion' scores over 'Coercion' and PD is the 'force multiplier' for  the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). In the 'Age of Information' where ideas, values, conversations resound across the world, PD will become an important tool of statecraft.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

Sunday, December 5, 2010

PD in the information age: Conference in New Delhi, Dec 10th- 11th, 2010

New Delhi will host an international conference on Public Diplomacy in the coming week. "Public Diplomacy in the Information Age" is being organized on Dec 10th and 11th at The Hotel Le Meridien, Janpath, New Delhi. There will be a series of workshops as well on Nation Branding, Global Media and PD strategies. To be chaired by the Foreign Secretary, Government of India, Dr Nirupama Rao, the conference would also have participants like Shashi Tharoor, MP, and Dr Nicholas Cull from the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. If I am not wrong, I think it is the first of its kind such conference on PD in India in terms of its scale and outreach. 

I am glad I have been given the opportunity to participate and hope to share my learnings from the conference and workshops through this blog. Look forward to lots of learning and a stimulating exchange of ideas. 

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

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